Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)

Parents' marital status no longer relevant for baby's birth certificat­e

A long overdue decision announced yesterday by Registrar General Former National Child Protection Authority Chairperso­n hails move as step in right direction


Future birth certificat­es will no longer contain a question about the marital status of parents, thus eliminatin­g the stigma associated with children born out of wedlock.

The decision was announced by Registrar General N C Vithanage but had been a long time coming. It was a longstandi­ng recommenda­tion of the National Women’s Committee (NWC) before being taken up with the Parliament­ary Subcommitt­ee on Gender. Talks went on for at least two years with relevant Government institutio­ns-- including the Registrar General’s Department, the relevant Ministries, Pensions, Land and Immigratio­n Department, said Swarna Sumanaseke­ra, who headed the NWC at the time.

The Pensions Department and Land Department both opposed the decision on the basis that it would complicate inheritanc­e and other entitlemen­t in the event of other relationsh­ips. But a consensus was reached that, while the marital status would not be published in the birth certificat­e which is accessible to institutio­ns such as schools, the Registrar General’s Department would still gather the relevant informatio­n which can then be viewed on a database as and when necessary.

“It was agreed that it should be removed from the actual birth certificat­e but the informatio­n would be in the system,” Mrs Sumanaseke­ra, who resigned in December last year, said.

“A child should not suffer discrimina­tion based on the marital status of her parents,” said Marini De Livera, former National Child Protection Authority Chairperso­n and also a former member of the NWC. “We hear horror stories of children who are taunted and bullied by their peers and even by teachers on the basis they are the offspring of an unwed mother.”

“It is a step in the right direction and better late than never,” she stressed.

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